A smart and understated international-crowd Mayfair Italian, with some similarities to La Petite Maison (with which it shares a co-owner); it’s a high-quality operation all-round but, at least in the early days, we found it somewhat unengaging.
ayfair these days is not for the likes of you and us (NFLYU). Sorry, that’s presumptuous. Perhaps you have a yacht? And a supercar which, in bored moments, you drive up and down South Audley Street? And as to your tax domicile? Well, who’s asking?
This new Italian restaurant is, technically speaking, not really in the NFLYU southern stretch of Audley Street. It’s on the wrong, northern, side of the social and financial chasm which is Grosvenor Square. (In the distance, you can see – horrors! – Oxford Street.)
The punters, though, still mostly give the impression of just having stepped off their yachts. (But, hey! This was during the Olympics: perhaps they had.) As Mr and Mrs Ordinary Englishpeople, we did feel a bit out of place. For the most part, though, the staff tried not to make us feel as if we Stood Out Horribly, and mainly succeeded. (The sole exception was one of the maître d’ types who – as he took our order – found something much more interesting to concentrate on, on the other side of the room.)
The room itself – not actually betraying many traces of the banca it formerly was – has been done out in a comfortable, no-expense-spared sort of way which, entirely like the crowd, looked as if it belonged everywhere-and-nowhere. Unless hanging out with the rich is regarded as an end it itself, this is rather unsatisfying. You’re paying ‘destination’ prices, yet there’s no feeling that you actually arrived anywhere. (Unless of course the establishment comes complete with a human zoo, like C London, say, and this place doesn’t.)
It would be satisfying to end by saying the cuisine here is comfort food of the banal type which the international rich seem to like, but that would unfortunately be entirely untrue. Indeed, a starter of peaches and lobster presented on a glass plate was one of the most unexpectedly beautiful and delicious dishes – utterly satisfying in its simplicity of both presentation and taste – that we’ve had for a very long time. The two pasta dishes which we’d ordered (did we mention we felt poor?) were also very commendable. Pasta is often satisfying but rarely interesting – these dishes were both.
And so the time came to join the ordinary people in places outside Mayfair. We paid the not inconsiderable bill (service charge added), and the credit card machine kindly gave us the opportunity to add a tip too. We’re not that stupid you know!
A small roll of fifties, left nonchalantly on the table, is much more ‘comme il faut’.